tv This Week With George Stephanopoulos ABC February 10, 2013 8:00am-9:00am PST
obama deputy campaing manager stephanie cutter, both white house veterans and from the congress representative tom cole and keith ellison, democrat of minnesota. let's get right to you, jon karl. you've been digging into the white house. what are their plans for the state of the union? >> the white house, the president wants to see this, the headline coming out of the speech as it was about jobs and the economy. that's going to be the focus here. they're a little stung by some of the criticism of the inaugural for not focusing on jobs. >> of course. >> they would argue it's not fair, but that's -- so this is going to have new initiatives on infrastructure, on education, on clean energy, and it's going to be all about the middle class expanding the middle class and a big warning on this, the automatic spending cuts that are scheduled to go in effect on march 1st. >> i do want to talk about that. that sequester across-the-board spending cuts. how about the tone? one of the things we've seen from the president since his re-election since is fairly
confrontational across the board. >> i don't expect to see much of a change on that. on one issue even though proposing new initiatives that will cost money, not massive new stimulus, but he will make what white house officials are describing as a progressive case for deficit reduction, that that still needs to be done even entitlement reform, and the progressive case is if these programs continue to grow out of control, they crowd out other initiatives, other priorities that are, you know, that progressives hold dear on education, on infrastructure, you know, social programs. >> well, one of the other things we'll see, congressman ellison, you and several other members of the democratic caucus will bring guests into the chamber victims of gun violence. >> that's right. as a matter of fact, young man named semi rahiman, who lost his father in a tragic event in minneapolis will join me and jim langua languagevin and our colleagues, about 30 members who are inviting victims of gun violence
to be in the gallery looking forward to them being with us because they -- they're witnesses to the need for sane, sensible reform in the area of gun violence prevention. >> congressman cole, what's your sense of what can get done on that this year? gabby giffords will also be in the hall also on tuesday. it seems to me reading the tea leaves, that some kind of consensus is building around universal background checks with the assault weapons ban likely to go nowhere. >> in the assault weapon ban, you're absolutely correct. look, it starts in the senate and we'll see what harry reid can get done. most of the key players, nra ratings including the majority leader, chairman leahy, six democrats up in states that the president got 42% or less in. i don't think they'll be too enamored with him, so i think that pushes you toward things
like background checks and the house, it's going to be tougher. i mean that's just the reality of it politically. so i would expect something to be done. i think there's going to be a lot of hearings but probably more in the mental health area, potentially in some of the background check areas, but anything that hints towards national regs won't make it and anything that really materially makes it more difficult for people to exercise second amendment rights won't happen. >> i tell you, i don't agree. i hope that -- i think the odds of something happening are determined by the determination of people who push those things. and when the folks are going to be joining me and jim langevin, we don't want to take the rights of owning a gun away. i own a gun myself, but i do believe when you have 20 dead first graders, we need action in this country and i'm -- most nra members agree. >> let me bring in stephanie cutter. where the president puts emphasis on tuesday night, i heard jon karl say, i think that's right, big focus on jobs. one thing you are seeing is president obama's approval rating coming in at 52%. that has if about where that's welcome back president bush had it his second term. president clinton below.
how do you have him handle the rest? >> he will do what he has been doing. you use the word "confrontational." i would use a different word. they will be very familiar themes. the economy will be central and how we can grow it. so everybody can participate. fair shot, pay your fair share but other things that he does lay out, he'll lay out the looming deadline on the sequester and tough choices we have to make around it and consequences if we let the sequester go into effect and, you know, cuts to some pretty critical programs, so i think the state of the union is always an important moment in a presidency, not just another case for the people sitting in the room but the country of the tough choices we have to make and i think he'll make it. >> nicolle, a cautionary tale on the state of the union. >> i think that he made the proposal to reform social
security without having his own party on board. that's a lesson for any president, but i think president obama did the republican party a huge favor by delivering an inaugural address that was historically combative. he did not deliver the kind of inaugural address people are accustomed to in recent history. instead he came out in a really spirited way, i wouldn't call them fighting words, but spirited defense of an aggressive progressive agenda. i'm told by staffers from marco rubio's office that he had a certain kind of response to the state of the union in mind, he tore it up and started again. republicans now are ready to i think go toe to toe with a very spirited president who i think is ready to advance a progressive agenda. i think this will help republicans really, you know, match spirit with spirit and make a conservative case. >> you know, marco rubio's response, you know, the expectation for some of this, a chance for him to showcase his immigration plan but i'm told rubio's response touches very
little on immigration. this will be a very confrontational speech taking on the president. it will touch on immigration but it is not immigration speech. >> the same things that you describe there, he'll talk about the middle class and talk about same things you talked about how to bring opportunity to every corner of the country so i think it will be a battle of ideas. >> which is great and what it should be. i just want to take one note on the inaugural address. you know, it has been described as a speech with a list of progressive ideas, but if you actually look at what the president talked about, that's not progressive, that's actually the center of the country right now, whether it's gay marriage or climate change. immigration, you've seen how far we've been able to move the immigration debate. that's where the country is, and i think as republicans are trying to remake themselves and points, they need to realize where the country is. >> where the country is but one thing we've seen in those issues like guns and immigration, climate change, very low on people's priorities now, economy front and center. that's what the president is going to be focused on. you all mentioned the sequester that is coming up, as well.
i want to dig into that a little bit. it seemed like when the sequester was proposed back in 2011, it was proposed because no one wanted or expected it to happen. take a look. >> the whole idea of the sequester was to make sure that both sides felt obligated to move off rigid positions. >> the sequester is ugly, it was designed to be ugly because we didn't want anybody to go there. >> the very idea of those automatic cuts is that they are so unacceptable, that few of us will want to see them enacted, and most of us will be willing to compromise in order to avoid them. >> what a difference a year makes. congressman cole, it's gone from irresponsible to what seems like inevitable. >> i think it is inevitable, quite frankly. but for the president -- this was a presidential suggestion back in 2011, an idea and yet the president himself hasn't put out any alternative. republicans twice in the house have passed legislation to deal with it, once as early as last may, again, after the election
in december and the senate never picked up either bill, never offered their own thing. now we're at three weeks out and folks are worried. they ought to be worried. on the other hand, these cuts are going to occur. now, the real choice here is simply do you want cuts to be redistributed in other ways, which is the sensible thing to do or do you want to let this happen? i think republicans are quite prepared to negotiate on redistributing cuts. >> you're saying all cuts. republicans are -- >> look, absolutely none. the president accepted no spending cuts back in the fiscal cliff deal 45 days ago. so you get all -- no spending cuts back then. then you're going to get no revenue now. >> well, tom, the problem with saying this is the president's idea is that you voted for the budget control act. i voted against it. we wouldn't have ever been talking about the budget control act but for your party refused to negotiate on the debt ceiling something that has been routinely increased as the country needed it. you use that occasion -- >> that is not the case. >> you used that occasion in 2011, august to basically say,
we are going to let -- we're going to default on the country's obligation or you'll give us dramatic spending cuts. that's how we got to the budget control ago. let me tell you, the bottom line is this sequester will put a million people out of work, no, 600,000, excuse me, got to get my numbers right, 600,000 people out of work, and this is going to increase unemployment, it's going to increase the deficit because people paying taxes means that we're lowering the deficit. it's going to do -- it's going to do everything opposite to what your party says that they want. it's going to create uncertainty, it's going to increase the deficit. it's going to increase unemployment. >> that's why we put out proposals to deal with -- >> it's going to be a problem. >> -- deal with the key -- we don't have a presidential proposal. we don't even have a proposal from the president. >> you got a proposal from the caucus. let me tell you about the ballots again. >> i don't think you speak for the president, so let's see. >> jon karl, take that up, the question.
president has given a couple of speeches where he wants a balanced approach, but no line-by-line proposal on the table right now. >> yeah, and there's been internal debate in the white house on this. i got to tell you at the white house they seem like there will be eventually will be a compromise to avert the cuts. >> not before -- >> not before march 1st. the pressure comes, negative consequences, i see zero chance of a deal on this. i don't see any chance and republicans did a great job of saying this was the president's idea, they appointed bob and clear the president's idea, but i talked to republicans and not just the radical house guys but prominent republican senator this week told me that he loves the sequester because it's actually -- real cuts. >> i want to bring that to nicolle wallace. i think that's a widespread
sentiment. on the other hand, hear from the white house and democratic operatives that may say that's all well and good but republicans will get blamed. >> the country is pretty strongly in support of big cuts, of bloated federal government and i think if you take it to the whole country, that would include the defense budget. i think that no one is interested in cutting anything that would impede our military readiness. no one wants to take anything at all from any of our troops on the front lines but to say that in the entire pentagon budget there isn't an iota of room for cuts like this for meaningful cuts would be lying. >> this is significant. you have republicans saying the pentagon budget can be cut without jeopardizing national security. not all of them. you have people like john mccain -- describe the fall but a lot of republicans, privately and publicly, saying that there is room to cut the -- >> as long as you don't -- as long as you hold harmless with everything that deals with troop readiness, that deals with troops on the front lines and military families but there's plenty of room in the procurement budgets, there's plenty of room for reforms and for -- >> i want to come to that in a second, but the problem will be, i think for the white house, broadly and for the country is the point that congressman ellison makes, you hit the sequester right now, that is goign to have a real economic impact right away.
>> absolutely, absolutely, and i think you'll hear the president most likely talk about that on tuesday night, tuesday night. we can't have any more self-inflicted wounds on the economy. the economy is poised to take off. if we do the right things. having massive across-the-board cuts to some critical programs i mean you're talking about education, health care, that things that actually we need, cops, to make this -- the economy grow. a couple of things, one, the president does have a plan on the table, fortunately deficit reduction plan that's been on the table for almost two years, balanced deficit reduction and cut $2 trillion out of the budget, balanced revenue and entitlement reform. that's on the table, it's been on the table. number two, where the country is, like, the country believes we need to do something about deficit reform. if you look at the exit polls from the last election, upwards of 60% people coming out voting for the president, voting generally. things that we need to reduce our deficit and in a balanced way. balanced means everybody pays their fair share. that includes revenue and right now it's 3-1 in terms of cuts
that -- >> it's not exactly where the republicans were six weeks ago, taxes were going up by law. the only question were you going to negotiate a good package, save as many bush tax cuts as you could. we eventually got there with no cuts from the president. now these cuts are coming by law and it's law that the president signed and advocated, and he's put no real proposal on the table with all due respect, and the reality is the cuts are going to come. now, we'll sit down and renegotiate where they're going to come from. we think we can do a lot better job -- >> can we just -- >> mechanism -- meant to be an enforcement mechanicism. >> the fiscal cliff on new year's day, you'd have high-income people who already have a lot of discretionary income seeing taxes go up. that's not going to hurt the economy. this thing is going to put 600,000 people out of work talking cops, we're talking teachers, pink slips will be going out. >> we're calling that -- [ all talking at once ] >> this is why we need to
negotiate this thing and not just say it's going to be sequester or our way. >> we actually passed -- >> come on. >> -- legislation -- >> how many did you -- >> not many. >> remember why we did this in the first place. we did this not because we wanted the cuts to go in place. nobody wanted these cuts to go in place. this was an enforcement mechanism for congress to come together, finally come together to pass deficit reform, deficit reduction. these across-the-board cuts is not going to get us there because it's going to strangle our economy, slow growth which will increase the deficit and -- the choices that people are making here are across-the-board cuts, which could be 10,000 teachers or asking oil companies to pay their fair share. that's what -- >> the victims of the sequester, it's so funny to hear democrats cry about the sequester. democrats control the executive branch, they control the senate and they're in a position to negotiate with republicans who have put out two packages of alternative cuts so -- >> take those --
>> well -- >> -- in the senate in response. that's not take it or leave it. that's like the process. they haven't been able to pass anything, the president hasn't proposed anything with three weeks away. we acted in may of last year. we acted again in december. >> senator reid is not saying he will pass a budget out of the senate this year. but i want to bring this back to jon karl because when you look at the sequester coming in on march 1st, it seems like even the bigger hammer is 3 1/2 weeks later march 27th, the entire government runs out of money. the last time they shut down was 1995 and did backfire on the house republicans. >> yeah, we faced a government shutdown and not long after that had to deal with the debt ceiling yet again, so it seems to me the real battle -- like i said, there's zero chance the sequester deal will happen before march 1st. those automatic spending cuts will go in effect and you will start seeing notices on furloughing employees and be on notice they may be furloughed but the real battle over the
funding of the government and a chance for those automatic cuts to be rejiggered. >> one of the things you're seeing right now, and this is against the backdrop of the republican party coming out of the last election talking about where they'll go in the future and how they'll be seen by the public and you guys mentioned marco rubio on the cover of "time" magazine called right there "the republican savior" put out a tweet saying "there's only one savior here, and it's not me" and a lot of pressure on marco rubio. you've seen several coming out with speeches where the party should be. >> we've got to stop being the stupid party. i'm serious. time for a new republican party that talks like adults. >> i would argue that a more restrained foreign policy is the true conservative foreign policy. >> the average american is not thinking about and trying to wonder about where the republican party is. they're thinking about how to make their life work. >> your leader in the house right there, eric cantor, where is this debate headed? >> i think it's a good debate for the republican party to
have. when you lose an election, you ought to be a little bit reflective and ought to think back and ought to begin to say, what do we need to do differently? we didn't do badly in the election, but the president won with less than he was elected in '08, lower popular vote, lower electoral vote. we held the house, we have 30 governors. the idea this is some existential crisis is overdone, i think, but we didn't win so what do we need differently. i like what we're hearing and like the direct line that governor jindal took because i think we have -- >> we can't be too -- >> yeah, we nearly were in the fiscal cliff and could have triggered a big tax increase. i don't want to be stupid but you also need to be principled and consistent in your values and i think we are. and, you know, we'll see what happens in the next year or two. >> and marco rubio does seem to be rising to the top of the heap. >> yeah, look, he's everything we need and more, he's modern. he knows who tupac is.
he is on social media. he's part of the sort of -- he has all the blessings of the old political establishment. he's close to the younger bushes. he and jeb bush and george p. bush create what i call that axis of enlightenment when it comes to immigration. i mean, he's got the policy. he's in touch with i think the lives of ordinary people and he's a very accessible guy. he talks about being a working dad and juggling his own priorities. >> you're shaking your head on tupac. >> you know, i think all of this stuff is just surface stuff. it's like lipstick on a pig. the bottom line is the republicans have a core values problem, not who knows who tupac shakur is. >> let me just say, i don't want to gloss over his credentials and i think when it comes to immigration reform, president obama has stolen from rubio. >> rubio has a piecemeal approach to the immigration stuff. i mean -- >> president obama took pieces of that piecemeal approach. >> well, bottom line is, i think where the country is, we want more aggressive, more direct reform on immigration reform than marco rubio is talking about. i think he's behind. i think he's fragmented on the
issue, and i think that, you know, the republicans are looking for anybody -- >> not just -- >> we are in the fifth year waiting for the obama immigration plan. it was supposed to be unveiled within 100 days after his election in 2008, so the president has prettily skillfully used the issue but hasn't led on the issue. we're still waiting for a bill. now, rubio is leading with some risk to himself which i admire. look, i think we'll get there but the real leadership on immigration isn't coming out of the administration but the senate. >> the president put out an immigration plan in the first term. i was there, i helped work on it. obviously it was an issue in this past election. republicans have come a long way, even compared to where we were just six months ago, now they're talking about being for the d.r.e.a.m. act and now marco rubio is talked about earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants. that's a big step forward for republicans. i hope he can bring the rest of
the party along and i think that you're seeing a lot of movement on the republican side on immigration for very basic reasons. the change in demographics in elections, and that's fine. i'm glad they're coming -- i don't care why they're coming. they're just coming towards the president on immigration and hopefully we can get something done. >> i want to get to one more issue before we take a break. another potential 2016 contender for the white house, chris christie of new jersey. he started out the week opening up about his weight on "david letterman" making jokes about it. a former white house doctor took issue and said she was worried about his health, connie mariano, and then he gave this press conference. >> this is just another hack that wants five minutes on tv. if she wants to get on a plane and come to new jersey and ask if she wants to examine me and review my medical history. i'll have a conversation with her at that time. until that time she should shut up. >> we called her and had a fairly heated conversation, a republican not voting for him. we're laughing about it but chris christie talking about this for a very good reason. this will be a serious issue if he decides to run for president.
>> it is, but i've got to make two points here. this reminds you of what lincoln supposedly said about grant and grant's drinking problem. you know, christie is the most popular republican in the land. you almost want to say, find out what kind of doughnuts he likes and then ship him a case of them because the guy is doing just fine. give him a break, but i will say this, if he seriously takes on the issue of his own health and weight, remember, mike huckabee first became a national figure of arkansas when he dealt with his own weight, lost 100 pounds, and if he kind of turns this into a national version of "the biggest loser" a political version of "the biggest loser" christie can gather more support. so many americans relate to what he is dealing with. so many of us are overweight. a lot agree with him in that press conference right there. >> but if you're going to run
for president, my advice is for him to stop telling people to shut up. [ laughter ] >> he says -- from new jersey so that's new jersey for, you know, give me a minute. but i think if he puts his weight on the table by bringing a doughnut on "letterman" which was a very skillful political move, turning your own vulnerability into something you make fun of before anyone else does is political genius but then it didn't take him 24 hours to reveal a rather thin-skinned side. >> we do have to take a break. a lot more roundtable. debate over drones and president obama under pressure from left and right. plus, "new york times" author wrote the best book you'll read this year and george saunders is in our spotlight. that retiring some day is even an option for sean and me. how'd you get comfortable enough to know you could really do it? well, planning, of course. and we got a lot of good advice. a few years ago, your mom and i put some money into a pacific life fixed annuity. it guarantees us an income for the rest of our lives, whether social security is all there or not. hey, hey!
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your view seems to be th at even if we could save american lives by detaining more terrorist, it would be better to kill them with a drone or let them go free rather than detain them. >> i respectfully disagree, senator. i never believe it's better to kill a terrorist than to detain him. >> how many high-value targets have been arrested and detained and interrogated by the united states during your four years with the administration? >> i'll be happy to get that information to you, senator. >> i submit to you the answer to that is one. >> president obama's take for cia director john brennan faced some tough questions this week on the drone war. let's talk about that on the roundtable. abc foreign affairs correspondent martha raddatz replacing jon karl because you spent so much
time on the issue, and the drone war has become kind of the signature characteristic on the war on terror. dramatic expansion over the last four years, but this is the most scrutiny it's got. >> that's certainly because of the testimony of john brennan and what he brought to the hill, what he talked about, which, frankly, wasn't very much. the drone wars have not been discussed for four or five years. no one talks about them. it's a brilliant strategy. if you don't talk about it, no one else will talk about them either. i just returned from the mideast, i was in israel, i was in northern israel. a lot of people are talking about drones. a lot of people are talking about the effects of drones, george. as you know, i've been in all the places they're used, in yemen, in pakistan, and people there do not like them. john brennan is able to say, look, it's very effective and it's certainly been effective taking out core leadership, but when you talk to people on the street, you wonder what the long-term strategy is. >> well, but let me press you on that, but you're right, there has been a lot of discomfort on
the ground with these drone strikes. on the other hand, it does appear the number of civilian casualties has been going down since 2008, and certainly there are less casualties than caused by massive bombings. >> i think one of the things is that, yes, i think they become much more careful. i think john brennan is probably very careful. no one wants to kill civilians and yet the american public doesn't really know much about this. i interviewed stan mcchrystal a few weeks ago, the former head of the joint operations command who ran a drone strike program. what general mcchrystal said is, look, what concerns him is they're now going after midlevel al qaeda and midlevel taliban. where does that stop and who makes the decision that something is imminent? >> congressman ellison, you've been on this for some time. you want much more oversight from the congress. >> that's right. i looked into this. i haven't found one public hearing on drones. now, we had the brennan hearings but congress has the oversight
responsibility here, and, by the way, the president has invited the conversation and said we need a legal architecture around this thing so why not do it. i don't think this is a partisan issue at all. i think we need to get a hold of this technology because other countries will be weaponizing drones. certainly we will probably have objections to how they use them if they don't use them in accordance to due process and international standards. and, by the way, the paper that the president -- well, the administration released uses the term "imminent threat." >> and who decides that, right? >> well, this is the broadest use of the term imminent i've ever. >> al qaeda. >> if you're a member of al qaeda -- not even that, if you're in affiliated group. it can be pretty attenuated. i'm glad the president invited the conversation. i think we ought to take him up on it. >> congressman, as he said, somewhat bipartisan. a lot of republicans also -- >> first, let me say the guy has the material in his pocket.
>> in yellow. >> the policy that started under president bush continued and expanded under president obama. i, like everybody else, i actually think the hearings and discussion have been very helpful. there probably needs to be more of it. the two things that come out of it that concern me the most, frankly, i think -- and it's not a criticism of the president, i think he's probably been more directly involved in some of the targeting decisions than if i were his adviser, i would think would be wise. i think he should supervise, the program needs to be intimately familiar. >> i think he's taking on too much risk for himself, quite frankly. but, again, that actually says good things about the president, not bad things. the second thing is, and this is to senator chambliss' point. i think we're losing a lot of opportunities to actually extract people and get information and human intelligence is really much more important than taking out individual targets. >> and, nicolle, one of the ironies a lot of people have sensed even is that even though president bush -- obama may have modified bush administration policies, he's also continuing
them. >> yeah, it's slightly hilarious people have all this patience for legal architecture to be crafted after the fact. if this is in president george w. bush's admission that there were that many drone attacks going on, there would be impeachment hearings going under way and hypocrisy and the actual policy and the fact that president obama has continued almost the entire basket is in the case of drone killings greatly accelerated their use has republicans feeling pretty satisfied that the counterterrorism policies put in place by the bush administration, which dick cheney was the architect of many of them, have been continued as president and the interesting other side of the coin to this extremely progressive president on domestic policy. >> and, stephanie, it does seem as if the president is uncomfortable at least we -- of the criticism he's not being as transparent as he promised to be. >> look, this is sensitive information. there is oversight through the intelligence committee, which is the way the law is currently set up.
he has made it clear that he's open for a discussion how these programs are handled in the future. you know, the document that you're holding up is based on a legal architecture, but -- but, you know, mr. brennan, the president, the administration has said that they want transparency, accountability and a process to ensure that there's, you know, everybody is aware of what we're doing going forward. there are elements of the president bush's war on terror that haven't been continued, many forms of torture, and, you know, the fact that the president just put this memo out after it became known and, you know, he wants to work with congress and be open -- >> another revelation this week in the foreign policy area, pretty remarkable hearing, secretary of defense -- outgoing secretary of defense leon panetta conceding that there had been a real internal debate and that most
of the president's national security advisers wanted to arm the rebels in syria. >> did you support the recommendation by then secretary of state clinton and then head of cia general petraeus that we provide weapons to the resistance in syria? did you support that? >> we did. >> you did support that? >> we did. >> you were in that region this week, martha raddatz. it was pretty surprising to learn not only secretary panetta but secretary of state clinton had pushed for this. the president said no. >> and the chairman of the joint chief of staffs. i think that came as a surprise to those in the region, and i talked to a lot of officials in the region about this. i don't think they're convinced that if the rebels were armed this would have changed much. a lot of the people i talked to said, look, we didn't know who they were then and there was actually some disagreement -- >> the rebels. >> military -- the rebels. we just don't know who they are. we admit we shouldn't have been giving them guns, people i
talked to and, yet, when you think about it, the united states really could have had someone to deal with in there and that's probably the argument that panetta would make, that general dempsey would make, that hillary clinton would make, you had somebody there. >> well, let me tell you, you got nearly 800,000 displaced people according to the un, you got more than 60,000 people dead. if you talk to syria and americans, you have maybe many, many more than that. we've got to do something. i am even hearing reports that we're not even coming up to the plate on humanitarian assistance. i mean -- >> and you've got chemical weapons which -- >> that's a complicated -- seriously complicating factor, but i just think that, you know, we've got to do more than we're doing. now, you know, armed rebels are not -- this is a fact-based issue. i think this -- we can be doing a whole lot more, and i'd like to see it. senator mccain was saying that, as well. >> you know, i want to give the president some support here actually. this is real presidential leadership. when you turn, you know, away
from the advice of your very top leaders, that's a presidential level decision. he deserves a lot of respect and it's a tough call either way. on the arms issue, i am very uncomfortable. i actually agree with the president. we don't know enough to be interjecting arms. there's plenty of people sending arms. the rebels haven't been short of arms. so i don't know that we need to take the lead. on the other hand i agree very much with what keith said. we need to be on the ground with humanitarian aid and need to have political intelligence. we can provide a lot of communications and logistics, that kind of stuff that keeps us in the game but arming people who may be the very ones that take the chemical weapons and misuse them, that would have been a disaster for us too, so i think the president has been, frankly, appropriately cautious. >> stephanie, how would you respond to people who say this was interesting timing, that the president chose to say no to his entire national security team right in the middle of a campaign. just didn't want that trouble in the middle of a campaign. >> well, look, george, i think there are decisions made with the national security team all the time. sometimes the president agrees with the national security adviser. sometimes he doesn't. that's why the president has built the team that he has. and, you know, i only know about this from what i read. i'm not inside the white house
anymore. and my understanding is that panetta and others didn't push for it because of the risk involved that the congressman just laid out and because these arms could end up in the hands of al qaeda or they could be used against israel. so this is -- this is why administrations are set up. this is why national security teams have been built. this is why the president wanted such strong personalities and expertise on the national security team. doesn't always agree with them but he gets their best advice and then he makes the decision. he's the commander in chief. >> just two quick political points. i mean, if you look at where president obama's foreign policy is likely to crack wide open among partisan lines, this is it. you will see senators mccain, i think, and graham and others start to string together instances of america leading from behind and of this president's comfort in doing so in places like libya and now in syria, and i think this will become the most political part of the president's -- >> scrambling with party lines over here.
>> but i think this is where he's opening himself up to criticism of what was a historically strong america, a strong role for america in the world is being deteriorated by decisions like this and the terror policies are pretty much in line with what bush and cheney advocated. it's his foreign policy in this very complicated, very fragile region and, again, you're going to see people parting with their own party but senators mccain and graham and chambliss -- >> in a place that's changing rapidly, the united states needs to be seen on the side of people who are fighting for liberation, for democracy and, by the way, is the world really going to miss bashar al assad? >> no. >> it's be great if he was gone and -- >> and he will go. >> something has to happen this year. i mean that's the sense i got over there. something has to happen. either he is gone, or it's fragmented completely. people are so nervous over there in that region. i traveled to northern israel and the iron dome, which is the
missile intercept that they're so nervous that syria or lebanon, more likely lebanon, hezbollah will start launching missiles toward israel they have these intercepters set up all over the northern border and those chemical weapons, if i can just say, those chemicals weapons i was told are all now consolidated in certain areas, they believe it was assad and the syrian regem that helped -- >> if israel knows where they are, should we expect another strike from israel? >> i think you very well will see another strike. if they do anything with those weapons, they said it's easier to take them ow. it's easier than to take people into safeguard. >> remember, we were involved in libya and weapons got out of libya and dealing with them in mali and other places now. at least those weren't american weapons, but we helped stabilize -- we ought to be pretty careful here. i couldn't agree more with you about assad, but again i don't sense there is a lack of weapons
in the region and the rebels seem pretty well armed. well, again, we agree on that. >> yeah. >> but here be careful and there are times when you do break with your advisers, frankly, president bush broke on surge with all his advisers and i think he was right to do that the president here is running risks. now, the political risk is he owns it. i mean you can't point to anybody else. i made this decision above people. that speaks relatively -- >> about to own, again, middle east policy more broadly, the president announced this week that he's going to go to israel in march. you were here when the announcement came. what was the reaction and what is the trip really about? we're hearing from the white house they don't expect this to be the sign the president will have a new peace plan on the table. it seems like it's largely about mending fences with mr. netanyahu. >> i think it probably is more about mending fences. in fact, i've never seen more expectations. as soon as he announced, it's like nothing is really going to happen. we're never going to get there. if you talk to people on the street, and there's some people i have known there for 25 years who say, you know, nothing will
happen, never ever has and usually you get a little bit of a spark, oh, the president is coming. isn't that great? people are talking -- the president is coming. what do you think, oh, the traffic is going to be terrible. >> you were kidding. >> that's where the expectations are on that, but i do think he needs to mend some fences with netanyahu. it's time that the president engaged over there. >> and in part because, you know, we still have this issue, congressman ellison, of the coming confrontation with iran. you got two different messages from the iranian leaders this week, the supreme leader says no direct talks. president ahmadinejad today maybe said we might be open to it. >> but you see on that score, the president can't be criticized for not being in support of trying to make sure that iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon. what i hope happens is that the president raises issues around stimulus expansion. i'm very concerned about -- yeah. i mean, the bottom line is after the u.n. vote where the u.n. voted 138-9
to recognize palestine's estate, there was housing settlements announced the next day, which was disappointing to me in areas that were thought to be part of the palestinian state so i hope after the president leaves this time, that there's no such announcement and nothing embarrassing happens. >> i would be surprised if the president made a huge issue of that. >> look, i think that they're viewing this trip as, you know, it's our most important ally in the region. the president hasn't been there yet. it's an important trip. it's an important way for him to engage directly with the israeli people, first and foremost. so i think that's through the lens through which they're looking at this trip, whether expectations are low on the ground. expectations, keeping them low is always a good thing. >> should be in place by then. secretary kerry started this week. secretary of state kerry. senator hagel still waiting for his confirmation up in the senate and i was struck last night talking about dick cheney earlier. dick cheney giving a speech in
wyoming who really took off on the president. he said "the performance now of barack obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal. frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people, hagel was chosen because obama wants to have a republican that he can use to take the heat for what he plans to do to the department of defense." there is an unbowed dick cheney. >> well, listen, senator hagel didn't do his new boss, president obama, any favors by looking befuddled and confused and clueless as to what the department of defense does, an agency he's up to now run, so i don't think senator hagel did himself any favors for the president. when you look at how republicans have sort of stood back and i think given the president a lot of running room in foreign policy it was because of the belief that secretary clinton, secretary gates were incredibly competent and incredibly reasonable and really quite measured in their foreign policy world view. that's trepidation, the
coalition of senator kerry, senator hagel and a sort of renewed former senator biden are going to have a much more left-leaning foreign policy. >> senator kerry approved overwhelmingly, but speak to this issue of senator hagel right now. the white house was not trying to defend his performance before the committee but they're still confident he's going to get confirmed. >> and i love that stephanie cutter has to do that on senator hagel and jay carney who was a white house -- a correspondent during the bush years covering senator hagel. it makes she so happy. this is my karma. what's yours? >> i love. [ all talking at once ] [ laughter ] >> look, first of all, let me address dick cheney. i think the worst thing that we could do right now is take dick cheney's advice on foreign policy. that's number one. number two, john kerry comes to this job with so much experience. life experience, both on the job as the chair of the foreign relations committee, he has been an ambassador all over this world on behalf of president obama bringing, you know, conflicts on the ground to an
end and representing this country in a strong way, a balanced way and a diplomatic way, and i think that, you know, his becoming secretary of state is a sign of strength for this administration and and being celebrated all over the world. >> senator hagel? >> senator hagel. >> sorry. >> no, no, previous on his performance, you know, and committee hearing, which will have nothing to do with how he performs his job as secretary of defense. he also comes to this position with significant experience, both as an enlisted man, as a senator and has strong support across the board in being able to do this job including from republicans. you know, what happened that day in the hearing, putting aside his performance, there was a lot of grudges being settled. a lot of personal conflicts being worked out. it had very little to do with current foreign policy. for god's sake, afghanistan was barely even mentioned. it was all about the surge in iraq. that is dealing with old wounds and not something that we need -- >> stephanie has to come back and be hagel's communication -- >> thank you, but, no.
>> obama administration, gates, hagel, lahood. we're trying to do the right thing -- >> we're out of time. anybody think he's not going to get confirmed? >> he's going to get confirmed absolutely. >> great roundtable. stephanie will stick around and answer your facebook questions on the web exclusive and george saunders getting attention over his new book "tenth of december." he joins us next. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 seems like etfs are everywhere these days. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 but there is one source with a wealth of etf knowledge tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 all in one place. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 introducing schwab etf onesource™. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 it's one source with the most commission-free etfs. tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 one source with etfs from leading providers tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 and extensive coverage of major asset classes... tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 all brought to you by one firm tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 with comprehensive education, tools and personal guidance tdd#: 1-800-345-2550 to help you find etfs that may be right for you.
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on saturday, just not regular mail, which means we'll only get the bed, bath, beyond coupon on monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday and fridays now. >> a justice department memo claims that president obama has the right to order the assassination of an american anywhere in the world. isn't that crazy? in a related story, donald trump has gone into hiding. >> the federal reserve was hacked on sunday. pretty serious. in fact, they're saying the hackers could have made off with as much as negative $14 trillion. we don't have anything. all stations come over to mission a for a final go. this is for real this time. step seven point two one two. verify and lock. command is locked. five seconds. three, two, one. standing by for capture. the most innovative software on the planet...
>> welcome back, robin. >> robin, i love you, god bless you. >> we have missed you. >> we love you. >> we love you. ♪ >> hey, robin. welcome back. >> welcome back. >> welcome back, robin. we cannot wait for that wednesday, february 20th. excuse me. robin will be back. we are counting the days and right now we have the sunday spotlight shining on george saunders. short story collection, never made the best-seller's list but did with "tenth of december." "the new york times" hailed him as the writer for our time and buzzy feature saying he wrote "the best book you'll read this year." it's the best fiction i've read this year. real pleasure to welcome you to "this week." you must be loving it. >> i think when i was younger, i might have gotten a little neurotic, but i'm having a great time. >> you earned it. the book is really remarkable. so rich in so many ways. funny and dark, realistic and absurd at the same time. but what i want to focus on for
just these few minutes is that we talk about all the time here on "this week," you really seem to tap into this economic anxiety that so many americans are feeling right now. >> yeah, yeah, well, i mean, it seems like that's the big american subject. you can talk about race, you can talk about sex, about your biopsy but when you get about class, people kind of clench up and in my 20s i had a series of that kind of classic american experience where you are kind of going down and think that's enough, now i'm going to turn myself around and then you go down a little more. that had a tenderizing effect. >> when you started that experience, you were an ayn rand guy. >> i went to a school in colorado and kind of a dull-witted vaguely right wing kind of person that didn't know much about politics and then i went to asia and the oil business, and that opened up my eyes to suffering and the fact that wealth doesn't necessarily indicate that you are virtuous.
it's just sort of a block. >> so one of the things you write about, the phrase you said, the absence of wealth creates an erosion of grace. >> right, capitalism thunders the sensuality of the body. fiction isn't actually a great propaganda. often the first impulse of a writer is kind of to pull up the big manure shock of his ideas and just sort of span their reader and dump it. but i find if you just concentrate on language and on making sort of liveliness of situations, then ideas and sort of -- they come out of the woodwork. >> that's what i wanted to ask. if you set out to write overtly political fiction, it wouldn't work. >> it never -- and i tried. it doesn't work. there's something about the intimacy of the exchange demands openness on both sides, and on the writer's part opens, which means i really don't know. i might think i know, but i don't. it's weird because the way to get to those ideas is through the language. paying attention.
close attention to phrases and sentences, and if you do that in kind of an open state, not only will the ideas show up, but they'll be the highest form of your ideas. they won't be superficial but deep and sort of ambiguous. >> seems like one of the things you try to create for in those sentences is space for heart. that's another way of reaching across our divide. >> that's right. that's right. i long that longfellow quote which i'll probably mangle but "if we could look into the secret history of our enemies, we would find sufficient suffering and sorrow to disarm our hostility," and i think fiction is kind of almost like a mechanical way to work through your own shallowness. you start off with a kind of a couldn't condescending relationship to your character almost by
deaf significance, and then the work with the sentences, you find that the bad sentences are equal to oversome that con desenccondesencion and work with language you move towards complexity and often to a state of confusion where you really don't know what you think about the person. >> you may not but when you send it out in the world when do you hope to get back? >> really i think the highest version is you're sending out a bundle of energy, you know, concentrated energy that you made with your long sweat really and your heart and it goes out and it jangles somebody. there's the highest form. now, there's another level where you do hope to make people more alive in the world. maybe more aware of the fact that there's -- we have more in common with others than we think we do. that's kind of the hope but even that gets a little bit intentional. for me it's just trying to deliver an energy charge in a
certain way. >> you did it for me and you've done it for so many more, the book is called "tenth of december." thank you so much, george saunders. to read an excerpt, go to abcnews.com/thisweek. good news. this is the place in our program where we honor the sacrifices of our service members killed in action. but for the second week in a row, the pentagon released no names of soldiers killed in afghanistan. that is all for us today. thanks for sharing part of your sunday with us. check out "world news with david muir," and check us out tuesday night when diane sawyer and i will have complete coverage of the state of the union on tuesday night. i'll see you tomorrow on "gma." >> in the news, new video and information on the cop criminaller, christopher dorner. and the huge disaster trial happening right now in the east bay. we will have a live report with the details. good morning. from mt. tam, certainly chilly still in our valleys. upper elevations, though, upper 40s. i'll let you know how an